Property Values Went Up – Here’s Why
Some 80,000 of 99,111 notices of appraised value were mailed to Comal County property owners by the Appraisal District on April 1 and many Canyon Lake residents had a lot to say about that on social media.
Rufino Lozano, chief appraiser for Comal County Appraisal District, said current estimated property values for 2019 increased by 16 percent over 2018 because sales prices for all properties rose in Comal County. With new construction excluded, the actual increase in value is 11 percent.
In short, sales prices in 2018 increased in comparison to 2017’s appraised values, also based on sales prices.
“So basically the changes that we made are all based off of market transactions,” he said. “This year alone, and we’re talking about the 2018 calendar year, we had 12,800 property transactions. At first glance, it sounds like a lot. But when compared to the total base, we have just under 100,000 parcels.”
In 2017, 12,400 parcels of land exchanged hands in Comal County. Over the last two years, 25 percent of all properties in Comal County were bought and sold.
“We’re looking at what sales have occurred, and how those sales compared to appraised values,” Lozano said.
The appraisal district runs a statisical analysis of real estate transactions. For example, if 10 properties are each valued at $100,000 and one sells for $40,000 while the others sell for between $110,000 to $115,000, the district uses the median value of these sales.
“We don’t use high or low values,” he said. “We leave out the outliers.”
He reminds residents that tax rates are set by local taxing jurisdictions, which use appraised values to adopt individual budgets and set individual tax rates.
Appeals Process Outlined On Website
Property owners who take issue with the statements they received in April must appeal those values by no later than May 15. Residents who miss this deadline can still appeal, but must include in their appeal a letter explaining “just cause” for the delay. For more information, visit the district’s website. Posted there is a video that walks residents through the appeals process. Appraisal Review Board hearings begin on May 20.
Recent changes in law now allow for teleconferences so that residents don’t have to take time off from work to drive to the district’s office at 900 S. Seguin Ave., New Braunfels. To use this option, property owners must submit their request for teleconference at least 10 days prior to their hearing and submit evidence by affidavit then call in the day of the hearing to provide testimony over the phone.
Lozano said taxable values should reflect homestead exemptions (these are not automatic — property owners must file to obtain them) and a 20-percent reduction courtesy of Comal ISD. With these exemptions, it’s possible to reduce taxable values by as much as 40 percent.
“A lot of people who are coming in (to contest their appraisal) have the misunderstanding that the appraisal district is supposed to be appraising property at 60 to 80 percent of market value,” he said. “We’re supposed to appraise properties at 100 percent of market value.”
He urges residents not to wait to protest increased property valuations. Protests are easy to file if they follow the process outlined on the district’s website.
“It’s a lot easier to withdraw than to file a late protest after the deadline,” he said. So far, approximately 600 protests have been filed by property owners. Some 250 of those already have been reviewed.
Owners who wish to protest their appraised values may meet informally with district staff in advance to review their property, Lozano said. Owners may opt out and go straight to the review board for a hearing if so desired. Hearing dates are scheduled at least two weeks after informal meeting dates.
All appraisal review board meetings are open to the public, and residents are advised to attend at least one before making their own appearance before the board.
Appraisal Cards Help Prepare for Meetings
To help residents better prepare for an informal meeting with the appraisal district or before the appraisal review board, appraisal cards are available at the district’s office. Open-records charges may apply.
“It provides a sketch of the property,” Lozano said. The appraisal district looks at the outside of a house when assessing values — not the inside, which it can’t see.
“Take the card, go out, and mark on the sketch where your issues are,” he said. “Write them down. Sometimes people will take a photo, and we can’t see what the issue is. For example, a cracked foundation is hard to see, but causes fissures along a brick wall. Get cost estimates. A lot of companies will give free cost estimates. We can definitely use that to make a judgement on valuations. In most cases, if they have done an inspection report of the property value before purchase, it will detail everything that’s wrong with the house.”
What to Protest
Property owners are advised to include in their protest any information that they feel affects their property value (i.e.: I have a leaky roof: bring in photos, estimates of repairs, etc. My value is too high compared to …: bring in closing statement, sales data of similar homes, etc.) Owners may also request a copy of the information that the district intends to use at the hearing (open records charge apply) to have a better understanding of how the District determined their value.
“What we usually recommend for people is to protest market value and equity,” he said. “What people will do is check one or the other. They will say I know houses in my area are not selling for that much, only for X dollars. Or, my neighbor’s house is almost identical to mine. In that case, it’s a market value. But when they say my neighbor’s house is only valued at this, that’s an equity argument.”